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Women’s Soccer: Northwestern opens Big Ten title defense with shutout win

Lauren+Clem+kicks+the+ball+upfield+in+a+game+last+year.+Clem%27s+clean+sheet+helped+the+Wildcats+to+a+season-opening+win+over+DePaul+on+Friday.
Lauren Clem kicks the ball upfield in a game last year. Clem's clean sheet helped the Wildcats to a season-opening win over DePaul on Friday.

Lauren Clem kicks the ball upfield in a game last year. Clem's clean sheet helped the Wildcats to a season-opening win over DePaul on Friday.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Lauren Clem kicks the ball upfield in a game last year. Clem's clean sheet helped the Wildcats to a season-opening win over DePaul on Friday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

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Women’s Soccer


Northwestern celebrated. Then, on the same night, the Wildcats set even higher expectations.

Right after unveiling the banner commemorating its first Big Ten championship, NU began laying the groundwork for its 2017 campaign with a 1-0 victory over DePaul on Friday night. The Cats’ defense, led by senior and reigning Big Ten goalkeeper of the year Lauren Clem, safeguarded the box and limited the Blue Demons to just two shots on goal.

NU capitalized with just more than a minute to play in the first half, after only prior three attempts on net through the first 44 minutes. Junior Kayla Sharples struck a ricochet off of the crossbar into the back of the net, following up on senior Grace Orndorff’s header.

The Cats sprinted back down the field and into halftime with a 1-0 lead. It was all of the breathing room that NU’s flawless defense and Clem needed. The senior goalkeeper, who led the nation last season in save percentage, started off the year with a clean sheet.

DePaul had its best chance in the 66th minute. Alexa Ben and Abigail Callahan had consecutive attempts on goal, the Blue Demons’ only two shots of the night, but Clem saved the first and Sharples swooped in and deflected away an open net attempt to keep the visitors off of the board.

“Two right back to back is always a little stressful,” Clem said. “But I did a good job coming out, making myself big. Got a touch on the first one and my defense obviously is always there for me.”

The sequence showed coach Michael Moynihan the “unbelievable tenacity” and “tremendous grit” that he hopes can take NU further this season. The Cats return several starters from last season’s team, including junior Hannah Davison and Sharples, coming off of preseason recognition by the Big Ten.

“It’s a group that every once and awhile, they bend a little bit, but they never break,” Moynihan said. “When you have that mentality, the inches always seem to work out in your favor.”

The Cats also got to play again with junior Brenna Lovera, who missed most of the 2016 season with a knee injury. In just 10 matches last season, she scored six goals, four of them game-winners. Lovera was back on the field in the first minute Friday and said she felt uninhibited.

“I’m just really happy to be back out on the field with my family,” she said. “I mean this team was everything to me and sitting was hard, but I was so proud of everything they did. And I’m just proud of this team and everything we’re going to do.”

When the Cats weren’t exchanging blows with the Blue Demons, they couldn’t help but notice the glistening Big Ten Champions banner. Clem said she sees the banner as a symbol of the program’s four-year climb from the bottom of the conference.

“It’s just inspiring,” Clem said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment. We’re sick of being called the underdogs. We know we have a target on our back, though.”

Email: charlesgoldsmith2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @2021_charlie

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